Paul Read: The Art Teacher
*This book was sent to me to review in exchange for an honest review as part of the Legend100 Club.
Unknowingly drawn into a war against his own pupils, Patrick’s patience finally snaps as he finds himself the number one target with the boy the school just can’t seem to expel.
When one of his Art students needs his help, she unwittingly pulls Patrick further into the line of fire, altering their lives forever.
With the media circling and rumours of his involvement reaching new highs, Patrick must escape the world he lives in, or face the consequences.
The Art Teacher is told from the perspective of failing art teacher, Patrick Owen. He is at that stage in his life where he is looking back on everything that could have been, everything that has happened and realising that, to all intents and purposes, he has failed in his own life. He has hit a slump. Not only does he work at a school where the pupils are troublesome and part of city gangs, but he doesn’t enjoy this job and his wife has left him, taking his son to far away Argentina.
It comes as no surprise then that, at this moment in his life, everything just goes from bad to worse. He has ‘managed seven years at Highfields Secondary School without punching a pupil in the face’ but now is the time when everything is about to change.
“failure wasn’t saluted, or attractive”
I found The Art Teacher to be a gripping, lightly-humorous, yet dark thriller that left me questioning what direction the novel was going to take. Even if I knew how something was going to plan out, it still shocked me when it did. It’s like when you know a loud noise is about to happen but you still jump no matter how prepared you might be. Paul Read brings realistic scenarios with flawed and relatable characters to The Art Teacher which is what immediately drew me into the narrative.
The characters of teacher (Patrick) and student (Denis) were extremely realistic and I found myself laughing and agreeing to everything taking place within their conversations. I’m not long out of university and secondary school being only 21, but I can totally relate to the instances between these characters and I cannot commend Read’s skill enough in bringing these school scenarios to life. He doesn’t hide anything in these encounters; the children swear, they deface school property, they fight. Even the phrases, tone of voice, and mannerisms of these characters are on point.
“‘Stop disturbing the class, Denis. I’ll speak to you at the end of the day.’
‘It is the end of the day. You’re jacking my phone. That’s racist, man.’
‘Denis, we’re the same colour.’
‘That’s racist, man.'”
Not only do I love the overall setting of the novel (bringing real life school problems into literature that are realistic and highlighting the feelings of teachers who may truly just want to punch all the miscreants in the face!), but I loved the themes that Read brought up. There are issues surrounding gang violence, family, friendship, education, drugs, rape – the list is long and I loved that they were all implemented into the novel. It shows the struggles of working in education but also the struggles of living in a home and social environment where peer pressure is all around, forcing school pupils to enter gangs in order to feel protected, powerful, in control.
The writing style was simple yet brilliantly written, drawing me in straight away and bringing a vivid image to my imagination. Read also understands the importance of pacing, picking up at key moments and slowing down at others to really get your heart racing during those times when Patrick is truly at a loss for words, or cannot fully understand the situation around him. Your heart beats faster as his does when he’s fearful or in a tense situation.
This is a book that I would recommend anyone to read, painting a picture of what life is truly like in the more rundown estates around the country, and helping readers to understand that sometimes a teacher’s job doesn’t truly finish at the end of the day. It’s insightful, funny, gripping, and dark all at once and a gem of a book to read.